How Software and Big Data are Changing Manufacturing in the United States

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With the increased use and capabilities of big data and software, many businesses are finding their operational models are shifting. As such, many industries have needed to adapt or change to ensure they keep pace with the evolution of progress. One of the industries that is changing in more ways than one here in the U.S. in the manufacturing sector.

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How Software and Big Data are Changing Manufacturing in the United States infographic

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US Manufacturing: The Way Things Are

Many goods and services come from the manufacturing sector here in the U.S., though as a whole, the sector represents just 12 percent of total US Gross Domestic Product (GPD). 12 percent may not seem like much, but this equates to 1.2 trillion dollars of exported goods.

The US manufacturing sector has increased manufacturing output by 30 percent since the recent Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit the economy, and while many industries and companies took a blow during this time it was clear to see that the manufacturing sector rebounded in a positive way.

Big Data: How it is Affecting Manufacturing

Big data needs software that is capable of handling large amounts of information. Thankfully, the United States has a good handle on software and big data application.

This is something that at least 17 percent of US manufacturers are taking full of advantage of. Big data analytics has given manufacturers an opportunity to serve clients in a more effective way. This is possible through data extracted from sensors that are implanted in the products they produce. The results have included after-sales services like proactive maintenance, which is rendered to clients and has proved to be invaluable.

It is clear that the use of big data and capable software is already giving US manufacturers an edge, which is necessary to compete in the global economy.

Experts have also noted that the combination of big data and a manufacturer’s ability to be flexible can actually boost productivity by at least 30 percent. Not only that, but it can also decrease the cost for product development and assembly cost by up to 50 percent.

Experts also noted that serious implementation of big data could also decrease 7 percent of the manufacturer’s total capital costs. This definitely will give US manufacturing great flexibility and the ability to improve other aspects of production.

Big data is also having a great impact on the way manufacturers produce a specific item. Take, for example, a vehicle that needs to go through several steps before a manufacturing company begins assembly work. A particular model needs to produce several types of prototypes to test the design. Prototypes take time, effort, and money to make. Big data has been effectively helping some automobile manufacturing companies to reduce the need for prototypes.

Big data has helped car manufacturers perform simulated performance on a particular design before spending more time or resources on the vehicle. Volvo, in particular, started using big data to see if a particular feature or design will be accepted by consumers.

Merck–a vaccine production company–used big data to conduct 15 billion calculations and 5.5 million batch-to-batch comparisons. Through this analysis, they were able to create a more efficient vaccine without the need to invest in detailed product testing.

There is an obvious trend that many U.S. manufacturers are noticing, which is big data analytics’ ability to cut costs and make manufacturing more efficient. This could be the drive that is encouraging many manufacturers to use big data to convert their companies into a lean manufacturing production model.

Manufacturers can use big data to forecast demands well in advance, which could help 20 to 30 percent of their inventory. A manufacturer can also expect to increase its fill rate by three to seven points. Of course, manufacturers are still adapting to big data analytics and software. Some may have a bit of an issue identifying what data would be relevant to their companies and what data is not that useful. There may also be a problem in regards to asking the right kinds of questions. But these issues will be clearer the more big data analytics is implemented.

The change that big data and software is having on U.S. manufacturing is an exciting step in American ingenuity, and one that will hopefully take the country into the next era of economic strength.

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An advanced degree program for engineers who want to become leaders without losing their foundation in engineering, the online Master of Engineering Management from Ohio University focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.